Tag Archives: Siri

This Moron Shrink Says Siri Is As “Toxic Psychologically” As Drugs And Video Games

How do you know you’re reading a report from a bug-eyed, sensationalist quack? When they take the newest and hottest trend and then say, “It’s almost as bad as this other popular trend amongst godless teenagers today!”

Here’s a good case study. Over at Fox News, a psychiatrist is claiming that Siri is just as damaging psychologically to kids as “violent video games!” WHAT?!?! Heaven forfend!

The claims are being made over at Fox News’ website by Dr. Keith Ablow, an accredited graduate of the Krazy Klown School For Advanced Pseudopsychiatry. His bio describes Dr. Ablow as a “member of the Fox News Medical A-Team”; given the analogy, I can only assume this means that he is one of five sketchy doctors in an old van on the run from the authorities.

Anyway, according to Dr. Ablow, Siri is as damaging psychologically as violent video games and “some street drugs.” That last claim is just preposterous, but even the first comparison is ridiculous, because there are simply no credible studies (let alone consensus) that prove that there is a causal link between violent video games and mental illness or disorders. None. That makes Ablow’s claim that Siri is “toxic psychologically” as patently absurd as, say, Dr. Wertham’s crusade against comic books in the early 1950s. It’s the equivalent of a shrink from the 1920s telling you that this new-fangled invention “telephone” is as poisonous psychologically as that flapper jazz devil music all these kids are listening to. Totally clueless, and without any scientific basis whatsoever.

But why does Ablow think that Siri is corrupting our nation’s youth? He explains:

But I believe that personifying machines and interacting with them as quasi-beings actually dumbs down our interpersonal skills and encourages us to treat other people like machines. Ultimately, it diminishes our ability to empathize with one another, because we’ve been chatting up a non-existent person and can get used to considering real people as essentially non-existent, too.

To the extent that people become “attached” to Siri and “rely” on Siri and think Siri is “funny,” they are just a tiny, tiny bit less likely to value a friend’s responsiveness, or a colleague’s help or even to appreciate the nuances in tone of voice that real humans use to convey emotion and communicate with one another.

No. You’re a moron. Prove it.

This is just the same old technophobic crap with a new slathering of paranoia. All Ablow is saying is what numerous doddering old fuddies with and without medical degrees have been saying for a century: technology somehow makes us less capable of communicating with each other, not more. They said it about telephones, they said it about radio, they said it about television, they said it about computers, and now they are saying it about smartphones. But guess what? Thanks to the amazing advances in technology over the last century, the average person on this planet is more in touch with his fellow man than at any point in history.

You say that every time we interact with a machine, we empathize with our fellow humans less? How do you explain millions of people taking to Twitter to support Egyptian protesters, or the Syrian revolution, or the Occupy Movement? I have friends I deeply care about, who have changed the way I look at the world, whom I’ve never met. How does being in touch with thousands of people on a daily basis from a practically infinite array of belief systems and cultural backgrounds narrow my understanding of the human condition? How does being an email, text message, or phone call away from 1/3rds of the world’s population at any given moment make me less of a humanist than some Nebraskan pig mucker from the 1860s who lives alone with his wife fifty miles from the nearest town?

Sorry, Doc. Here’s the truth: because you’re afraid of technology, it’s you who is less capable of understanding and empathizing with other human beings, not me. Which, come to think of it, might be why you’re writing for Fox News in the first place.

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Apple Is Looking For Engineers To Help Make Siri More Conversational

Apple has posted two new job listings for Siri UI engineers. The positions mainly focus on improving Siri’s on-screen conversation view, but there also some hints in the job description that suggest Apple is looking to do more with its voice assistant’s API.

As highlighted by The Next Web, Apple is looking for talent to help develop Siri’s conversation view UI. One of the two generalist application developer positions also includes talk of working on Siri’s API:

We are looking for an engineer to join the team that implements the UI for Siri. You will primarily be responsible for implementing the conversation view and its many different actions. This includes defining a system that enables a dialog to appear intuitive, a task that involves many subtle UI behaviors in a dynamic, complex system. You will have several clients of your code, so the ability to formulate and support a clear API is needed.

The other job description:

We are looking for an engineer to join the team that implements the UI for Siri. You will primarily be responsible for implementing the content that appears within the conversational view. This is a broad-ranging task – we take every application that Siri interacts with, distill it down to fundamentals, and implement that application’s UI in a theme fitting with Siri. Consider it an entire miniature OS within the OS, and you get a good idea of the scope!

As we mentioned in our roundup of third-party apps that Apple should integrate with Siri, developers do not have access to Siri’s API. Apple could be suggesting that this new job position would entail working with third-party “clients” to help distribute the Siri API, or it could be referring to internal work between Apple’s own teams.

Currently, the only third-party services that Siri integrates with are Wolfram Alpha, Yelp, and Wikipedia. Apple has yet to say when (or if) it will open up the Siri API to other developers.

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How To Get Something Like Siri On Your Older iPhone Right Now, No Jailbreak Required

Voice Actions for iOS

Say hello to Voice Actions. She’ll say hello right back.

Voice Actions is a basic Siri alternative, available right now in the iOS App Store.

For those of you with iPhone 4S envy, it lets you control your older iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad with spoken commands (although you need iOS 3.0 to make it work).

I confess I was skeptical when I first heard about it. My expectations were low. But the app surpassed them, and even made me laugh out loud.

It’s not perfect, but hey, not many things are. Unlike Siri, there’s no scrollable view of recent actions and requests. In fact there’s very little visual polish at all. Not all the functions seem to work that well – I couldn’t get image searching to show me any pictures of kittens. The app understood what I’d asked for, but got stuck when trying to find it for me.

But the speech recognition was better than I expected. Voice Actions understood almost everything I said, and behaved pretty much as I expected it to.

It was able to open new SMS messages and emails to the right contacts, but wasn’t able to transcribe the message contents.

It could tell me the time in foreign cities, forecast the weather, define and spell words, and source simple facts from the internet.

And guess what – Voice Actions has a sense of humor too, just like Siri. Ask her “Do you love me?” and she replies: “I love everyone, especially you.”

Ask her: “What are you wearing?” and she replies: “A white robe.”

Ask her to open the pod bay doors, and of course, she replies with “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”

Voice Actions is $4.99 right now (£2.99 in the UK) and I think it’s worth a try. Don’t expect miracles. Don’t expect Siri. But if all you want is to set reminders and do other basic tasks with your voice, shelling out for this app is a whole lot cheaper than buying a brand new iPhone 4S.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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Fully Functional Siri Arrives On Jailbroken iPhone 4 Via Cydia [Video][Update]

Following its debut on the iPhone 4S back in October, it seems every iOS user wants to get their hands on Siri. A number of developers have attempted to port the feature to older devices, but because it needs to talk to Apple’s servers to function properly, they’ve had little success. Until now!

A fully functional (and possibly illegal) version of Siri has made its way to the jailbroken iPhone 4 via Cydia.

The package, called “H1Siri,” weighs in at over 100MB and is available now via the “Cydia.be” and “iphone3gsystem.fr/cydia” repositories. It claims to provide full Siri functionality on both the CDMA and GSM iPhone 4, running either iOS 5 or iOS 5.0.1.

Although the demo above shows the feature in action on the iPhone 4, you may not be able to get it working yourself just yet.

Those who have downloaded and installed the package already are experiencing mixed results. While some have it working, like the user in the video above, others report little success. It’s believed that the tweak uses a proxy server to function, which is currently being crippled by a huge influx of users desperate to get Siri on their iPhone 4.

Before you rush off to download the package, however, iDownloadBlog warns that installing H1Siri may not be a great idea:

… we were very skeptical of mentioning the package for several reasons. First off, it comes from an unknown developer and an unknown source, which should always send up a red flag. Second, the only way we’ve heard that an actual Siri port is possible is by using illegal code.

Their report also notes, however, that they’ve spoken to a number of users who have gotten the feature working “in short bursts.” Right now it seems very erratic, so you may want to wait until it’s working properly, and confirmed to be legal.

UPDATE: iDownloadBlog has confirmed that this feature does indeed use copyrighted binaries from the iPhone 4S which does make it illegal. What’s more, the group of Chinese hackers who developed the feature have confirmed that it uses their servers to function, and that they could now be down for weeks. When it is working, bear in mind that all your personal data is being passed through these servers, and that it could be recording along the way.

If you ask me, this hack just isn’t worth the effort.

[via The Next Web]

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Why Siri Can’t Find Abortion Clinics

This week, a lot was made in the news about Siri’s supposed pro-life leanings. Essentially, a bunch of people got upset because Siri couldn’t find a local abortion clinic, even though abortion clinics don’t actually call themselves that. Apple denied that Siri had any pro-life leanings whatsoever, saying instead the service was in “beta.”

So what really happened? Well, Apple just learned its first lesson about search: you’re held responsible when the information people are expecting to see doesn’t show up in a search query, even if that information is only tangentially related to the actual words in the query. It’s a headache Google’s been dealing with for almost a decade.

Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land explains:

First, Siri doesn’t have answers to anything itself. It’s what we call a “meta search engine,” which is a service that sends your query off to other search engines.

Siri’s a smart meta search engine, in that it tries to search for things even though you might not have said the exact words needed to perform your search. For example, it’s been taught to understand that teeth are related to dentists, so that if you say “my tooth hurts,” it knows to look for dentists.

Unfortunately, the same thing also makes it an incredibly dumb search engine. If it doesn’t find a connection, it has a tendency to not search at all.

When I searched for condoms, Siri understood those are something sold in drug stores. That’s why it came back with that listing of drug stores. It know that condoms = drug stores.

It doesn’t know that Plan B is the brand name of an emergency contraception drug. Similarly, while it does know that Tylenol is a drug, and so gives me matches for drug stores, it doesn’t know that acetaminophen is the chemical name of Tylenol. As a result, I get nothing:

In other words, Siri’s having something of an uncanny valley problem. It’s only as smart as the search engines it is linked to like Wolfram Alpha and Yelp, but because the voice recognition is so good and the way Siri interacts with you is so lifelike, people expect her to be as smart as a person… even if she isn’t one.

So when Apple says “Siri is a beta”, they mean it. Just like Google had to do, Apple needs to learn from experience and program Siri to understand what results to give for things like “I’ve been raped” or “I want to buy some rubbers.” Give it time, and it will, but just because Apple hasn’t figured out every possible question users can ask Siri yet doesn’t mean they’ve got an axe to grind against various philosophies, creeds, races and religions.

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Stephen Colbert Skewers Siri: “Only A Matter Of Time Before She Loses Her Job To The Mexican yoPhoñe” [Humor]

It’s not just Robin Williams making fun of Siri on national TV these days. Wry faux-conservative Stephen Colbert picked up his iPhone 4S the other day to address the recent controversy over Siri’s inability to find a single abortion clinic in New York, which Colbert describes as such an impossibility (“There’s one at the top of the Empire State Building”) that he summarily declares Siri to be a pro-life, racist arch-conservative, “like Laura Ingraham, except less robotic.” But who can blame her? As Colbert points out, it’s “only a matter of time before she loses her job to the Mexican yoPhoñe.”

Very funny. If you like Colbert, check it out.

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How to launch apps, open files and more with Siri on your Mac

Recently, TouchPad, an app for remotely controlling your Mac from your iOS device, introduced an update that allows you to dictate text through Siri on your device and have it show up on your Mac. You can use this handy little feature in combination with Alfred, a launcher application for OS X, to make it easier to open programs, perform searches and open files on your computer from across the room.

What you’ll need

You’ll need an iPhone 4S with Siri turned on to get started, of course; TouchPad by Edovia from the iOS App Store ($4.99); and Alfred running on your target Mac, which you can pick up for free from Alfredapp.com. You’ll also need to make sure Screen Sharing is enabled on your Mac, which you can set up by going to System Preferences > Sharing and then checking the Screen Sharing box.

How it works and what you can do

Alfred basically allows you to quickly accomplish tasks through typing queries, application and filenames, instead of having to use the mouse to navigate through folders and your Launchpad application manager. With TouchPad, you can dictate text instead of typing it, which, if you’re operating a media Mac from your couch, for example saves you a lot of time and potential for improper entry via your iPhone’s software keyboard.

To get started, make sure Alfred is running (after the first run, it should be configured to launch at Login). Then, using TouchPad on your iPhone 4S, select the target Mac as the server, and use the software keyboard to type “Alt (⌥) + Space,” which calls Alfred up. Then, tap the microphone icon on your iOS device’s virtual keyboard within TouchPad, and simply say the name of any application you want to find. It should then transfer the text to Alfred, which will show if it found a match, and you can hit “Return” on your iPhone to launch it.

You can dictate any text you like, and options for searching the web will pop up, including Amazon, Google and Wikipedia by default. In Alfred’s preferences under the Features tab, you can also set up a custom search for any URL of your choosing, such as Facebook for instance.

Under the Features tab, you can set keywords to trigger actions related to certain files. By default, saying “Find xx” will locate files in Finder that match whatever term you use; “Open” followed by a keyword launches the file using its default associated application; and using “in” will find specific instances of a term within a file. Keywords allow you to control system features like shutting down your Mac, restarting or emptying the trash.

Even more possibilities

With the paid Alfred Powerpack for £12 ($18 USD), you can add more features to your Siri-enabled voice commands, including the ability to launch and control iTunes, email a contact or open Address Book, and enter specific URLs that launch automatically in your default browser.

Of course, this is all about Siri basically replacing typing, and you still have to hit the software “Return” key to make the magic happen, but it’s a lot easier than fumbling with VNC or virtual trackpad software when trying to navigate a Mac set up as a media center. If you’ve found other neat ways to use Siri on your Mac, please share them in the comments.

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